Just A Quick Survey On A Thursday Night…

I have a thing about the question “How are you?”

I have seen lots of discussion regarding the way that most people just respond, “Fine!” or something similar because the question itself has become a way of greeting another person.

I admit to using it to the level of overkill myself, like when I pass someone I know in the store:

“Hey! How are ya?”

Or when I hug somebody upon meeting them for lunch:

“So great to see you! How are you?”

You get the idea.

Here’s the thing. If I ask somebody how they are and then they launch into a true explanation of how they are, I LISTEN and then interact accordingly. Not everyone does the same. In fact, I can count a few times over the past two weeks when someone has asked me how I’m doing and when I start to answer them, they either interrupt immediately as if they haven’t even asked me a question or they make whatever I’m saying about them.

My opinion is, if you don’t have time to connect with someone, don’t ask open-ended questions.

Are you noticing this? Have we just gotten so used to the shortcuts that technology affords us that making eye contact and really finding out what’s going on with people we care about takes too much time and effort?

Or is it just me?

Discuss.

24 Comments

    • Melisa

      Well I’m fine! For real! But this is a huge pet peeve of mine.

      I will do my best to call you tomorrow, and you can tell me how YOU’RE doing, too! 🙂

  • lceel

    It’s automatic. “Fine”. “I’m good, how are you?” Most of the time it’s true. Not lately, though – but how do you respond to superficial questions with answers that would curl the questioners hair?

    • Melisa

      Well, yes. I am noticing from everyone’s comments that I should have clarified: I am talking specifically about people I know well and not strangers or mere acquaintances. I don’t pour my heart out to people randomly and would tailor my answer according to how well I know the person…It is frustrating to me though, that people I know pretty well would ask, not in passing, but at the beginning of a conversation and then not care to really know. You know?

  • Ri

    I NEVER say “fine.” I generally respond truthfully – especially when it’s some random person (say, the clerk at the grocery store), who really DOESN’T expect a response. In answer to their manager dictated “How are you doing today?” I’ll say *sigh*…*pause for effect*.. I’m really tired, *insert hastily read moniker from nametag here*. And my feet hurt, and I still have four errands to run. But, I’m still smiling! How are YOU?”

    Now, this shocks them into actually answering honestly on many occasions, and it appears that they’re genuinely pleased when i listen and interact. It’s my fun little pick me up in the weekly grind.

    What bugs me MORE, though, is when, say, you’re inadvertently in someone’s way in a grocery aisle, and you realize it and politely say “oh, excuse me!” and they respond with a generically placid smile and a “oh, you’re fine.” WTF? Not only is that a completely incorrect response, but they don’t even KNOW me. So, I always respond to that one with a *sigh*, a slight incline of the head and an offhanded “Well, that depends on the day and who you ask…”

    You can always tell the bright ones – they laugh. Gosh, it’s fun messing with people. 😉

    • Melisa

      Okay, the “you’re fine” is a whole other post! haha! That is another weird phenomenon. I think it’s all of the drilling the world does about self-esteem or something! 🙂

  • Cy

    But are these really so bad? This is all just part of our American language. It can be embellished or left as is depending on how you feel.

    • Melisa

      I agree that it’s up to the person being asked the question as to how they answer, but check out my response to Lou’s comment: when it comes to people I know well, it drives me crazy for them to ask if they don’t want to know. Maybe I’m turning into a curmudgeon.

  • Headless Mom

    I kind of agree-it’s annoying. But! I know that 99% of people that ask aren’t looking for a real answer so I usually just say “Fine, thanks.” With people that I know I’ll usually give a shorter answer that is truthful. Lately, it’s been, “I HATE MAY” but, you know, that’s just me.

    • Melisa

      Yes, I guess with people we know, the shorter answer is key.

      And Happy June to you, Kendra! WOOT!!! 🙂 I hope it’s a million times better than your May.

  • Kat

    Never sure how to answer that question. However, as you know in Germany we don’t ask that question when we meet. We use “Hallo” or “Guten Tag” and only if we know the other person well enough and are truly interested in how they are, will we ask “Wie geht es Dir?”.

    • Melisa

      YES. Well, as we both know I decided a long time ago that I am part German, so naturally this makes total sense to me. 🙂
      P.S. I miss you and I was just talking to Momo yesterday about how I can’t believe it’s been nearly 2 years since I was visiting you. xoxo

  • Abigail

    I definitely think “How are you?” has become a meaningless phrase for most people in the US. I generally answer fine, or well or something similar. I really think most people say it as a habit and not because they really want to know.

    • Melisa

      Yes. Check out my reply to Lou’s comment (I don’t want to be too repetitive!), though: what about when it’s good friends who are asking?

  • Patty

    It’s sad because I’ve noticed the same thing…most people don’t want to hear the real answer to “how are you?” I know I’ve been answering it more with “I’m fine”…it’s what’s expected. Sad indeed.

  • Shannon

    Well, when somebody asks “How are you,” I usually say, “good.” Which you could debate as to its grammatical correctness, because technically you’re saying, “I’m doing good,” which is incorrect because obviously the correct word is “well,” there. But when you say, “Well,” you sound sort of like a pretentious asshole. Not that any of this addresses your question, because I was mostly referring to interactions with strangers or acquaintances you don’t know that well, which you made clear was not what you were talking about in this post.

    As for the larger issue that we all tend to say we’re doing well (good, fine, etc.) even when a close friend asks, I do think this speaks to the issue that we sugar-coat our life situations under the assumption that nobody cares or that somebody will judge us for being less-than-fine. That’s a whole separate can of worms, and one that discourages and frustrates me.

    • Melisa

      I really need to spend more time with you because every time you express an opinion on something, I think to myself “I like how that girl Shannon thinks.”

      I think you are exactly right for throwing in the fear of being judged for being “less-than-fine”. It makes total sense and also makes me wonder what this world is coming to.

  • Busy Mom

    I listen! Although, I do admit that there’s at least one person in my life who I don’t ask that on a regular basis because, well…just because.

    Let’s just say it’s someone who hasn’t fully embraced the “just let it go” philosophy over life issues from 20 years ago.

    • Melisa

      Well, that’s understandable. But it’s your prerogative not to ask, right?

      Haha! I didn’t even invoke Bobby Brown (My Prerogative) on purpose, but there you go! #wewillalwayshavewhitney

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